Simple house connection documentation is a very multi-layered process: customer onboarding, job creation, scheduling, surveying, and all the documentation. Digitization can help bring order and efficiency to this process. This is exactly what our Startup of the Week Vaira is dealing with. With their platform, home connection documentation can be automated and digitized. We spoke with CMO Dennis Bienkowski about Vaira’s solution.
Hello Dennis! Thanks for taking the time for us today. Let’s get right into it: Who are you at Vaira?
We are a team of currently 13 people from Paderborn with different specializations. We transform the processes, documentation. Also, we are surveying work of network operators, municipal utilities, and construction service providers and simplify their work.
How does this work?
Vaira is a software-as-a-service platform consisting of a web application (Vaira Office) and a smartphone app (Android/iOS). In the interaction of these two solutions, we can map all process steps digitally on a central platform, from the household customer to construction documentation and billing.
We designed The Vaira Office for office work. Network operators, public utilities and construction service providers can communicate with each other via chat, create and schedule orders, manage users and keep track of the progress of orders. Using the integrated workflow builder, entire process chains can be designed without extensive programming knowledge, so that later instantiations only have to be triggered, which then run fully automatically. A notification system keeps process participants up to date and informed about the status of their jobs at all times.
In real-time, all data is exchanged between the Vaira Office and the Vaira App. An installer in the field receives a message directly as soon as a new job is assigned to them. They can then select an order from his order list and process it. Besides, they can fill out prefabricated forms completely digitally, carry out surveys using only their smartphone via augmented reality – without any extra hardware such as a GPS antenna -, and much more. All collected data is directly available as digital data sets and is shared with all authorized process participants in a matter of seconds.
Vaira follows three principles: Modularity, generalization, and user-friendliness. Our platform is built in such a way that process participants only need to use the features they need to complete their jobs. The interface allows Vaira to be flexibly connected to other ERP, SAP, and GIS systems, ensuring a smooth exchange of data. Also, the modularity allows us to easily add more features to Vaira. Instead of an individual software solution for individual players, we give users the opportunity to map their requirements flexibly and easily. We provide a construction kit in which users can intuitively map their own jobs and processes. After all, acceptance of the digital transformation stands and falls with the manageability and user-friendliness of digital solutions.
That sounds like a very comprehensive solution. What features make you stand out from your competitors?
Vaira offers the possibility to skip all process steps that have to do with the transmission of data through real-time synchronicity. Since we collect all data digitally, it also eliminates all process steps that involve scanning, printing, or manually transferring data to in-house ERP, SAP, or GIS systems. This can significantly reduce errors that are common when manually transferring paper into systems. Jobs are searchable and filterable, and process stakeholders can communicate directly through the platform and assign tasks to each other. The progress of jobs can be tracked live and priorities can be communicated quickly, even in the follow-up. Features such as a reporting module generate fully automated reports.
The innovative surveying component enables fitters to carry out high-quality surveying quickly. That frees them from tedious after-hours office work on the construction site. Automatic plausibility checks and mandatory fields can be stored in the form fields, which drastically increases the quality and completeness of the documentation during the documentation process.
Vaira bypasses superfluous process steps, reduces the probability of errors, raises data quality, and accelerates the process. Less time, fewer costs, more overview.
An important unique selling point of Vaira is our holistic solution. We think of the construction site and its documentation as one process. The platform does not only serve a single process participant but connects all players and enables a smooth exchange of data and work. In this way, construction site documentation can be carried out consistently digitally for the first time – including an innovative surveying component that enables everyone to carry out high-quality surveying.
How did you build a successful business model from that?
Currently, we are financing ourselves through larger project deals that pay directly into the final product. In addition, there are financed test deployments and the first license customers of the first basic version: Vaira Basic. These then run on the software-as-a-service principle (SaaS for short) – Vaira is therefore not purchased, but you pay for a license to the platform. Depending on the desired scope of features, the prices for orders, process instantiations, and users are automatically adjusted.
Compared to purchased software, the SaaS model also includes support, maintenance, and update services. Unlike purchased programs, Vaira does not become obsolete but is continuously developed further. We constantly add new functions, which can be flexibly implemented in the user’s own license. The user experience is also continuously improved.
You’ve just briefly mentioned potential customers, could you go into more detail about your target audience?
Our target group currently includes network operators, public utilities, and construction service providers, including surveyors, with the use case of the house connection process. In Germany alone, there are around 500,000 new house connections, 700,000 FTTH connections, 150,000 emergency and 25,000 dismantling orders per year. Existing buildings bring in another 100,000 connections. Normally, you need to document and measure all of them in the process.
In theory, however, Vaira can also be used to map any other process. Public authorities and municipal administrations such as land registry offices, police and fire departments, and forestry have already shown interest in Vaira. Together with the Paderborn cadastral office, we are striving for the implementation of a funding project. By developing a module for splice documentation, we were also able to attract the attention of telecommunications providers in particular. Accordingly, the potential target group for our platform is large.
Our focus is currently still on the German market. However, we have already been able to establish contacts in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Austria, and Switzerland via trade fairs. Through partnerships and projects with large international companies, we are also expanding our network beyond national borders. For example, we work together with Veolia and the fittings and piping system manufacturer Georg Fischer.
You are currently selling a basic version of your solution. Where do you want to go with Vaira and what successes have you already had?
Exactly, since last year we have been offering “Vaira Basic” for testing and productive use. With Vaira Basic, the complete documentation can already be carried out on the construction site on an order basis. The basic functions of Vaira Office are also fully usable and are being further developed.
In the background, we have already been working for some time on a major upgrade for the app and the web application. This update will fully align the logic behind Vaira with process flows. The upgrade will be rolled out seamlessly and at no additional cost to all license customers in the respective app stores – in line with the principle of Software-as-a-Service. Vaira Office is constantly being developed further and all new features can be viewed directly.
We are currently developing Vaira on the basis of a project together with the municipal utility association Thüga, the German subsidiary of the French group Veolia and the municipal utility Braunschweig. This cooperation came about as a result of our participation and victory in the U-Start competition in March 2020. Our cooperation with Georg Fischer allows us to take our application to a new level. Also, since this fall, EWE AG has become a shareholder in Vaira, which gives us better access and insight into the market. In addition, we have been working with a major network operator on a project basis to further expand the platform approach.
Increasingly, network operators, municipal utilities and construction service providers are also becoming aware of us through recommendations or web searches for digital solutions. Test deployments are being requested and productive uses of Vaira are also already in the pipeline. Especially in this unusual and difficult year, we have noticed that interest in process digitization has increased significantly. The industry is ready to optimize existing processes through far-reaching digital transformation – and we are very happy to help.
Dennis, thank you very much for the exciting interview! We wish you continued success. We are sure that we will hear a lot more from you.
If you want to learn more about Vaira, you can have a look at theirInnoloft profile here.